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December 7, 2012While much of the Pitt fan base was spent Tuesday and Wednesday in angst over the possibility that head coach Paul Chryst could leave for the same position at Wisconsin, Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson went right to the source following Bret Bielema's departure from the Badgers Tuesday afternoon.
"I was with Paul shortly after the Wisconsin thing came open, and when he issued the statement on Tuesday night, he never varied from that with me," Pederson said during a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon.
In the midst of speculation about his possible candidacy for the Wisconsin job, Chryst released the following statement Tuesday night:
"I understand the speculation surrounding my name given today's developments. I am committed to the Pitt football program and the University of Pittsburgh. I am focusing all my time and energy on our team's bowl game preparation and recruiting a great group of young men to join our program and this outstanding university. We are working hard every day to re-establish this program and I am excited about the future of Pitt football."
Chryst and his assistant coaches spent Tuesday and Wednesday reassuring recruits that they weren't leaving Pitt, and Pederson said that Chryst had the same message for him.
"He was committed to Pitt, he said he was committed to Pitt, he didn't waver on that, and so I appreciate the kind of person that he is and I appreciate the consistency in the way he approaches everything he does.
"As far as I was concerned, our conversations were consistent and were consistent from the first day that we ever talked about this job. He was worried about our team and recruiting and the bowl game and those kinds of things. So I was moving right along with him."
Chryst maintained similar consistency with recruits.
"He said he wasn't going anywhere and he's excited about the future and the class we have coming," four-star quarterback Tra'von Chapman, who is committed to Pitt, told Panther-Lair.com Wednesday night.
The issue was seemingly put to rest for good on Thursday when Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said in no uncertain terms that he would not be pursuing Chryst for the Badgers' job.
"Paul has already come out and said he is committed to Pitt, and I think he should be committed to Pitt," Alvarez said in a press conference televised on the Big Ten Network. "I don't think it'd be right for him to leave after one year. I wouldn't feel right and I don't think it'd be appropriate for me to hire him back."
While Alvarez said that he would not pursue Chryst, many Pitt fans wondered if the university would give the first-year head coach a contract extension in order to further keep him with the Panthers. Pederson said that topic didn't come up this week.
"I would say that we never had those kinds of conversations. That was not the discussions we had surrounding any of this. The discussions centered around his desire to be here, and that's really where we are with it.
"We love having him here and we'd like him to be here for a long, long time."
In his first year as head coach, Chryst led the Panthers to a 6-6 record and a matchup with Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, which will be played in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 5. That record and bowl berth represent a continuation of the 2011 season's outcome, when Pitt also went 6-6- and played in the BBVA Compass Bowl, but Pederson said he has a very positive view on the future.
"I can't imagine feeling more optimistic about where we're headed than I do right now. We've got the right guy, he's hired a terrific staff, the players are doing the things he's asking them to do, they're doing a good job of recruiting; I think, all the way around, it's where you'd like your program to be, particularly as you head into another conference and moving the program forward. I think it's all headed in the right direction."